suspects arrested in drug operations Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Current drug laws need more teeth to stem the flow of illegal drugs entering the UAE, says one of the country’s most seasoned crimefighters.

Speaking at a major law-enforcement forum on Monday in Dubai, Lt General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and Public Security in Dubai, lauded the authorities for making major headway against an onslaught of illicit drugs being smuggled into the country.

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But, despite massive drug confiscations by customs and police, Tamim said there are still a great number of harmful substances landing on the streets and into the lives of vulnerable young people.

Lt Gen Tamim has been leading an aggressive fight against illegal drugs in the UAE since he was named by Lt Gen Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, as chairman of a newly formed Drug Combating Council in March 2016, tasked with stepping up the nation’s war on drugs.

In a candid assessment of the UAE’s war on drugs, Lt Gen Tamim said that customs inspectors required extra training to help them foil drug smuggling operations, especially against highly organised black-market drug rings who lure people into trafficking large quantities of drugs in their stomachs.

Teenagers in danger

“Drug addiction starts between age 12 and 18. Our teenagers are in danger because of illegal drugs and we need to modify the narcotic law in line with new changes, and combat drugs on social media. Judges need to issue tougher penalties on drug dealers too,” Lt Gen Tamim said during his address at the 13th edition of Hemaya International Forum and Exhibition on drug issues.

Lt Gen Tamim cited federal crime statistics in 2017 which revealed that 515 drug dealers and 1,235 drug-related suspects were detained on allegations of trafficking drugs in the country.

Another 4,689 drug addicts were arrested last year too, he said,

Lt Gen Tamim said since the formation of the Drugs Combating Council in 2016, drug-related arrests had spiked 40.6 per cent.

In 2017, Dubai witnessed a 121 per cent increase in the number of drug-related arrests, from 90 suspects in 2016 to 199 suspects last year.

“Every year, there are pardons for inmates during private and religion occasions. We shouldn’t pardon any drug dealers or addicts before they finish their jail time,” he said.

To fight illegal online drug purchases, Lt Gen Tamim called for tougher revisions in narcotic laws to punish anyone wiring money to a drug dealer outside the country.

Another critical tool to fight drug addiction lies with parents who are the first line of defence, by monitoring their children to intervene before drugs ravage their children.

“Studies showed that teenagers between 12 and 18 can become drug addicts. Despite efforts to combat the entry of illegal drugs, our first defensive line is parents and schools. Parents should monitor their children and know their friends,” he insisted.

According to Lt Gen Tamim, some drug suspects arrested in the UAE confessed that they are getting the drugs from parties in Lebanon like the Hezbollah.

“Some suspects confessed that they are from Hezbollah. There are organisations who sell and buy drugs and they don’t care about the safety and stability of the people. Sources from inside Lebanon confirmed that they intend to harm the Gulf countries,” Lt Gen Tamim said.

Shaikh Mansoor Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum officially inaugurated the 13th Hemaya forum on Monday under the theme Foreseeing the Future of the Global Combat of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances: Predictions, Preparations and Prevention Strategies for 2030’, in the presence of Lt General Saif Abdullah Al Shafar, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Maj Gen Abdullah Khalifa Al Merri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police.

Brigadier Eid Thani Hareb, Director of Anti-Narcotics Department in Dubai Police, said the drugs threat continues to pose a great challenge for all governments and organisations concerned with combating drugs.

“We have been aware of the seriousness of the scourge of drugs and its spread among members of society and the gravity of crimes and financial and human losses caused by them.

"We are fully prepared to cooperate in all programmes and strategies with various governmental and non-governmental agencies to contain this scourge,” Brig Hareb said.